STEVENS: Lobos Open Season with New-fangled, Up-Tempo Attack
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  11/03/2008
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

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Nov. 3, 2008

Lobo Basketball
Lobos vs. Melbourne Roos (exhibition)
When/Where: 7 p.m. Tuesday, The Pit
Radio: 610 AM
Projected starters: Eileen Weissmann, Amy Beggin, Amanda Adamson, Sara Halasz, Angela Hartill,

By Richard Stevens, Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

The new-fangled Don Flanagan offense is no secret. Google it, if you want to know the ins and the outs of the way Flanagan plans to throw his talented pack of Lobos at the enemy during the 2008-09 season.

The offense is called the dribble-drive motion. It is credited to a guy named Vance Walberg, tweaked by various coaches including Memphis' John Calipari, and currently is being tweaked again at the University of New Mexico by Don Flanagan.

The principles are simple enough, logical enough, and you might even be able to sum it up in three words: attack and shoot.

"That's the theory. Attack the basket," said Flanagan. "It took me about three weeks before I liked it. So far, I'm pretty excited about it."

The attack-and-shoot summation is a bit simplified, but it is the core of this hoop philosophy. You look for the fast break. You spread the floor, positioning your shooters in key areas. You get your athletes to attack the defense on the dribble. If the dribbler can get to the basket and make a layup or get fouled: fine. If not, they look for open shooters, or cutters, when the defense collapses.

It's a offense that demands good shooting from the 3-point line, from the foul line, from everywhere.

"You have to work a lot on shooting and you have to have people quick to the ball," said Flanagan. "We are looking for a specific shot. If it comes in the first four seconds, we'll take it. If you take a shot in the first four seconds, you are more liable to get the rebound than if you took 25 seconds, just because the defense hasn't set up and people are running all over the place.

"It's a fun offense. Your fans are going to like it and your recruits are going to like it. I've never met a recruit yet, who didn't think they should be running and pressing."

Of course, there are problems with the offense. The shots need to fall. You have to rebound. You also can't get caught up in the up-tempo of the offense and fire up bad shots. You have to show good judgment and, at times, show some patience.

"Teaching patience is difficult when you run this style of offense because what you are doing is attacking the basket," said Flanagan. "We have to be concerned about shooting ourselves out of games. I want us to push the ball, take early opportunities on offense, but then show patience, if the shot isn't there.

"And if we are playing a more athletic, quicker team than us, we have to make sure we are wearing them down, and not just trying to beat them down the court."

The Lobos get their first chance to run their offense against someone else when the Melbourne (Australia) Roos step into The Pit for a 7 p.m. tip on Tuesday. Flanagan said he will use the exhibition to evaluate player combinations and individual effort as well as study his new offense to "see if we can actually do some of these things in a game situation."

In UNM scrimmages, the dribble-drive has been clicking on all cylinders and some of the individual talent on this UNM team has looked good. For example, freshman Sara Halasz has scored 28 points and 31 points in UNM's two scrimmages. Point guard Amy Beggin and post Angela Hartill also have indicated this up-tempo ball might add to their scoring averages of last season when Beggin averaged 10.9 and Hartill hit at a 6.4 clip.

"I like this offense a lot," said Beggin. "It will get a lot of people involved and it gives us a chance to run and put a lot of points on the ball. I think the fans are going to like it, too."

Said Hartill: "We have a lot of options. There is a lot of variety out there and I think it will be good for us."

The development of this offense will be key to the UNM season. Flanagan will use his two exhibitions and his non-conference season to fine tune the execution of the dribble-drive. He also will be have a keen eye for possible tweaks needed before Mountain West Conference play begins on Jan. 7.

"If I have to work with the offense and change a phase of it, I'll do that," he said. "We are working on the fundamentals that work in this offense and putting them into a structure with a philosophy of aggressiveness. If we have to learn to slow it down (at times), then we'll do it.

"If we are having problems with it, we'll tweak it. I might go four minutes of this (dribble-drive) and four minutes of something else. We'll see."

An interesting aspect of this offense will be how 6-foot-6 Valerie Kast will fit in. Kast is a good shooter, but will never be the quickest player on the court. "So far, Val has adjusted very well," said Flanagan. "She won't be the first person down the court, but when she is on-balance and confidence, she can shoot."

The Lobos were picked to finish fourth in the MWC, returning three starters from last year's 20-13 team that made its seventh consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. UNM returns 10 letterwinners. The Lobos open their regular season in The Pit on Nov. 15 against Alcorn State.

Editor's note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at rstevens50@comcast.net. Previous articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner